Octopus might just be the best place I have ever worked. Fact. Probably. The offices overlook Golden Square in the heart of west Soho. They are a 100% renewable energy firm that offers carbon offsetting for about the price of a latte extra each month. And they are excellent on both price and service. (In fact, they are the only Which? Recommended Provider for energy for the second year running after scoring five stars in all seven categories against which they were judged. You can read it here.)
But more interestingly, it feels a little like how companies should be. Greg is a relatively young and dynamic kind of chap who bounces around the office fizzing sparks of, em, energy. He is of a similar vintage to me, but has all his own hair and looks like I could be his dad, which is quite annoying. And the Octopus people (I mean, the people who work at Octopus, not some sort of half-human, half-cephalopod band of baddies from Dr Who) are what a company profile should look like these days. Young, dynamic, diverse and full of buzz – not to mention woolly beanie hats and beards and so on. Then there are the men. Joooke.
Out of its 200-strong workforce, at least in the Soho office (they’re also in Leicester and Brighton), there appears to be good ethnic diversity. They’re really strong on gender diversity, with 50% of directors being women, and an 88.8% female management team. And they encourage flexible working, allowing people to work from home if they wish. (In fact, a huge proportion of the “digiops team” – customer service, to dinosaurs such as me – exclusively work from home, logging on at a time that suits them.)
This means that parents can fit their working hours around their childcare arrangements, for instance. One chap, who founded @StopSelfHarm, tends to be somewhat nocturnal and chooses to work overnight, which is all cool and dandy with Greg and co. Here’s what he had to say:
When I started working one or three decades ago, offices were typically full of middle-aged men in suits – especially the executives – and the odd token woman. People smoked at their desks. We went to the pub at lunchtime and had two pints. (We’d sometimes refer to a three-pint lunch, a four-pint lunch and the “I left my jacket on my chair ‘cos I ain’t coming back” lunch.) Everything was orange and beige and a bit washed out like an old Polaroid snap. Oh! Hang on a sec. I think I’m getting mixed up with the Seventies. But you get the picture.
Long story short, looking around Octopus Energy’s trendy Soho gaff, the workforce more closely resembles the demographic make-up of the population of London. It’s one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, where a third of its residents are foreign-born and more than 200 languages are heard on its streets. Some claim that there is someone here from every single country in the world, though I can’t find any research to support this. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Trust me. I’m a journalist. When Greg recruits a woman from an ethnic background to take over from him, he’ll know his work here is done. And then he’ll go off and find a new challenge. Probably.
Note to readers: I have reported myself to Lord Strobes and the Committee on Standards for the Order of the Brown Nose for possible transgressions. My defence is based on the fact that I will be here for a fixed month and have signed a watertight contract. Only peeing in the pot plants after a “four-pint lunch” can stand in my way now. So there's nothing in this for me but spreading the love. Sometimes, I write things not because I expect any reward. Just because it’s the right thing to do. Karma innit? Peace and love an’ all that palaver.